Navy veteran plans to walk length of Route 66 Marathon as promise to herself
BY JOHN D. FERGUSON World Correspondent
Sunday, November 18, 2012
11/18/12 at 5:44 AM
Route 66 Marathon: Get all the latest on the Williams Route 66
What started out as a way to honor war veterans turned into a life-changing experience for Tulsa resident Rogene "Ronnie" Ashford.
Ashford walked 11 miles on Nov. 11, 2011 to pay tribute to members of the armed services on Veteran's Day. Sunday, she will walk the Route 66 Marathon's 26.2 miles as a promise to herself.
That initial 11-mile stroll for the 62-year-old Navy veteran on the River Parks trail was the impetus to reach a higher goal. Ashford's next step was to participate in a marathon just one year after taking those first few strides.
Ashford plans to walk all 26.2 miles no matter how long it takes. Ashford informed Route 66 officials she will be a "flashlight finisher" since the finish line will be dismantled and everyone will be long gone.
She estimates she will finish in about 12 hours.
Ashford will receive no medal for completing the route since there is a time limit to receive the race medallion. She insists: "My bib number will be my medal."
No matter if or when Ashford completes the course, she has been an inspiration to friends and family.
"I had no training and no special shoes when I started," Ashford said of the first 11-mile walk. "But, I did it."
Those thinking Ashford is making a mistake trying a marathon without help need not worry. Over the winter months, she combed the internet for training tips.
Two runners stood out in Ashford's mind: Jeff Galloway, who is the Walt Disney World official trainer, and Andy Payne, who won the 1928 Bunion Derby by running from Los Angeles to New York.
Galloway is a former Olympic marathoner, and Payne was from Oklahoma.
She bought books and began serious training in January by swimming at the YWCA. By February, she walked up to 13.1 miles.
Ashford then decided to enter the Route 66 Marathon in March. She recently logged 24 miles in one walk and felt "pretty good."
Ashford likes walking, but disdains the treadmill, so all her training is outdoors.
"My slogan (for training) became: If Andy (Payne) can do it so can I," Ashford said with a laugh.
Ashford was 5-foot-2, 235 pounds when she began this journey. After months and months of walking, she is down to 180.
"I will finish after everyone goes home," she added. "I will finish within 12 hours. I will be on the sidewalks with my flashlight and a pocket of friends."
Ashford will not entertain the thought of failing to complete her goal.
"It's been a neat process to watch," said one of Ashford's three sons, Eric Mondloch of Denver. "She's always been a goal-oriented individual. She's worked incredibly hard for this and shown a lot of dedication."
Ashford has spent her life helping others. She raised three sons (Dale, Eric and Sigh) virtually on her own. Ashford even helps others in her occupation as a mental health therapist.
"It's nice she gets to do something for herself," Eric Mondloch added.
Among the group of friends following Ashford on her trek will be the "Decker Gang." The gang is made up of a quilting group that Ashford belongs to. Decker Gang member Carol Belter of Okmulgee will get to the race as soon as church is finished.
"I'm so proud of her," Belter said. "Our birthdays are one day apart. She's just an inspiration and my hero."
Ashford hopes others see her walk as a way to motivate for more physical activity.
"It's my own journey and maybe I've inspired someone," Ashford added. "Oklahoma should be healthier."
Ashford has made no secret about attempting to complete a marathon.
"I've told everyone," she said. "The more people I tell, the more I would be committed to it."
Original Print Headline: A promise to herself
Sunday's Route 66 Marathon schedule of events
Marathon, half marathon, marathon relay; Start line, 7th Street and Main. Start line pre-race activities include traditional Indian drummers, Native American blessing of running course by Chief Clark Inkanish of the Wichita tribe, singing of the national anthem and a confetti shower.
10 a.m. to noon
Center of the Universe Detour, Boston Avenue pedestrian overpass between 1st Street and Archer. The marathon offers a completely unique 0.3-mile detour from the course for runners to visit Tulsa's historic Center of the Universe. Runners taking the detour will receive a special coin. A DJ will provide entertainment while runners try to hear the eerie echo offered at Center of the Universe, and spectators can join in the tin foil hat contest.
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Finish Line Festival, Veterans Park
Awards Ceremony, Veterans Park Stage
Ronnie Ashford is going to walk the distance of the Route 66 marathon Sunday in Tulsa. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World